A year and more of unprecedented beginnings, a whole shift in the mode of existence of the humans of the world, a hell lot of events and occasions and celebrations cancelled and the extravaganza of them forsaken and yet the sporting world of all fun and games managed to shatter records, one after the other. Be it the postponement of the Summer Olympics for the first time in the history of the games or similar such cancellations and reschedulings in extents hitherto unheard of, the global sporting stage has seen a turbulence of sorts, much like all other facets of the human life has experienced. Despite though this unwanted nature of development marking the realm of sports that which has also seen some of the most high profile matches in different leagues being played out to no real audience, the sportsters and game changers have continued with their exploits both on and off the field. Even as the pandemic threatened to push to the sidelines the pursuit of something as ‘secondary’ as sports over the now ultimate pursuit of the human life, sportspersons the world over have still managed to shatter all norms and expectations. While sporting records themselves have taken the hit and thus tumbled, so has the commercial association with matches and tournaments as the emergence of the new richests of the sports world stands testimony to. From the highest paid footballer ever to the highest paid female athlete, the many a money studded sportspersons of the world have still managed to usher in a new era of riches into their level playing ground. Here’s revelling in the revelation of the top paid athletes of the world in 2021-
Irish mixed martial artist Conor McGregor has emerged as the undisputed king of the professional realm of the sports in this year of the pandemic as he raked up an enviable 180 million dollars in 2021. His earnings of such gigantic magnitude though stems mostly from the $150 million sale of his majority stake in his whiskey brand, Proper No. Twelve, enough to propel him to the top of the rankings listed by Forbes. This however is not Mc Gregor’s first time hanging around on the Forbes’ list with the ‘Notorious’ boxer also staking claim at fourth position in 2018 with a staggering still income of a 99 million dollars. Even prior to that though, a largely controversial Conor McGregor had exuded faith in his giant earning abilities, having joked way back in 2016 about soon spacing out that year’s highest earner Cristiano Ronaldo. And in this year of strange adventure induced by the breakout of a global pandemic, the giant talker McGregor did indeed manage to make the world take note of his words, asserting therefore his fame as perhaps not so much of a technically adept fighter but sure as one who have always managed to draw in the crowds, and thereby the bucks.
A regular presence in Forbes’ stinky rich list of athletes for the past many years and even the topper of 2019, football great Lionel Messi continued his dazzling run with the moves and the money this year as well. With cumulative earnings of $139 million, the now PSG star stands still his ground as among the world’s richest ever to have emerged from the world of sports, courtesy his whopping $674 million contract with his former club Barcelona, as revealed by a leaked report. Messi’s as wondrous run with sponsorship deals as his turns at kicking the ball contributes as well to his massive financial fortunes in 2020, a year that saw him also emerging as just the second footballer in the world to surpass $1 billion in career earnings.
Reserving the last spot of a podium finish for himself on Forbes’ prestigious list is another footballer widely regarded as the greatest in the world alongside Messi. With a 120 million dollars in yearly earnings, star Portugal player Cristiano Ronaldo occupies the number three position in a list he had topped for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017. The first footballer to accumulate $1 billion in career earnings in 2020, Ronaldo’s pay check derived from a $64 million annual contract with Juventus as well as his long association with some of the most prominent global brands is what has kept him in stead to assert his presence on the Forbes’ highest paid list with an almost 50-50 division of earnings attributed to both his on field and off field heroics. Also the most followed person across a range of social media platforms, it isn’t just his mavericks as a player but also his fame that asserts Ronaldo’s growing status of the wealths.
Yet another sportster with earning in excess of a 100 million dollars within the timeframe of a single year who makes it to the Forbes’ list of 2021 is Dak Prescott. As the quarterback of the world’s most valuable sports team the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott’s $160 million contract extension plus a bonus $66 million signing amount as well as his growing prowess on the endorsement avenue is what puts the American footballer firmly placed as the record breaker of all NFL players even as he continues to chart newer heights in his career with his already many an accolade earning footballing skills.
His repertoire of talents might be such that has charted out for him numerous avenues of earning but that does not squander American basketball player LeBron James’ chances of being listed by Forbes as one of the highest earning sportspersons of 2021. Widely considered one of the best players in NBA history, and also the first among the lot to accumulate $1 billion in earnings as an active player, James’ raking in of the moolah is also largely attributable to his on field activities of which his many endorsement contracts as well as his featuring in books, documentaries and television commercials makes up a major chunk of. And with a major portion of his $96.5 million earnings that granted him the fifth position of 2021 coming from off field venture, the man awaiting a very imminent Hollywood debut indeed has even more than his prowess as the ‘face of the NBA’ to fall back on.
The most expensive player ever, Brazilian footballer Neymar comes close to LeBron James with a cumulative earnings of a 95 million dollars in 2021. The world’s third highest paid athlete of 2019 according to the Forbes list and returning this year to dominate at the sixth position, and the captain of the national team when they won the Olympic gold in 2016, Neymar draws a whopping proportion of his income in his capacity as a star footballer even as he continues to command the fancy of global brands who vie to draw him in for their endorsement. Also among the top three most popular athletes on social media, Neymar’s deadly combination of skill and style is what makes him a world class purveyor of the riches globally.
A regular feature in the elite list of world’s highest paid players in any sport, tennis great Roger Federer’s $90 million income in 2021 pits him as Forbes’ seventh recognised giant earners in a year marred by the pandemic. Out of action for majority of the 12 month period though, it is obvious that it is Federer’s bankability as one of the most sought after celebrity brand endorsers that make him still a valued presence among the top 10. In fact even in 2020, the record creating Swiss had been first among all athletes with $100 million in endorsement income asserting therefore his reputation as a global phenomenon even beyond the fore of the tennis courts that he have so majestically dominated over the years in all his identity as a versatile player of the game.
A phenomenal driver of the Formula One race who has in his kitty a whole slew of records, British sportsman Lewis Hamilton’s earnings of $82 million in 2021 is a testimony to the power that he exhibits on the racing course. With six Formula 1 championship titles in seven seasons, the one time youngest champion of the sport in history makes it to the Forbes’ list for yet another time, bettering his tenth place appearance in 2017 when he amassed 46 million dollars. With also a slew of endorsement deals in his kitty as well as with his exploits in music and fashion, Hamilton’s many a off field activities complements brilliantly his professional race to glory, thus earning him the laurels and the dollars.
Another NFL presence in the 2021 Forbes list of the world’s highest paid athletes is a 43 year old Tom Brady whose $76 million annual earnings and counting has earned him this coveted position among the top 10. The oldest NFL Most Valued Player of 2017 and the oldest Super Bowl winner, Brady’s age seems to have only upped his appeal, as he continues to clock in lucrative endorsement deal to further substantiate his already growing fortunes on the field.
As one of Forbes’ highest paid players of 2021, American basketball player Kevin Durant is also one of the highest earners of the game, having pocketed a cool $75 million this year. Often called the best player in the NBA, Durant however owes a substantial part of his gigantic fortunes of the season to his entrepreneurial ventures, having been kept away from action by an injury during most of the previous year. His endorsement deals with prestigious global brands also earn him a handsome sum even as his forays into the realms of photography and writing and acting also sure earns him some more precious bucks to have him rounding off the top 10 of 2021.
The emerging tennis phenomenon who grabbed headlines by pulling out of the French Open in response to her then not very spirited mental state of mind, Naomi Osaka might not be among the top 10 of the world’s highest paid players of 2021 having pocketed some 60 million dollars to be tied with golf great Tiger Woods at the 12th position of the Forbes list. But what earns the 23 year old breakout star a special mention is the many records she has set already in her pursuit to emerge as not just a phenomenal hitter of the tennis ball but also an activist in more ways than one. One of the world’s most marketable athletes, Osaka has been the highest-earning female athlete of all time by annual income in 2020, the Japanese woman’s 2021 income makes her also the highest paid female athlete ever in the history of the sporting world. A giant hitter of the ball in the court, both on and off it, Naomi Osaka is the powerhouse of sports who is making it matter with the power of her voice, her serve and also her expanding money prowess.